Robert J. Kovacev's practice focuses on federal tax controversy and tax litigation. He combines extensive first-chair litigation skills with substantive tax knowledge to represent taxpayers in high-profile, high-stakes tax disputes against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), both at the administrative level and in litigation. These disputes include international tax and transfer pricing issues, the research tax credit, the Section 199 domestic production activities deduction, alternative energy tax credits, and the economic substance doctrines. Mr. Kovacev has more than two decades of experience representing clients in Tax Court and in federal district and appellate courts. Recognized by Forbes for having one of the top tax-related Twitter accounts, Mr. Kovacev is a leader in the emerging field of taxation of robotics and artificial intelligence, and he frequently writes and speaks on the topic.
Prior to joining Miller & Chevalier, Mr. Kovacev was a partner at a global law firm. Before entering private practice, he was a senior litigation counsel in the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), where he was lead trial counsel for the IRS in some of the largest and most complex civil tax cases in the nation. In that position, Mr. Kovacev worked closely with the IRS's Large Business & International (LB&I) Division and top management of the Tax Division to shape litigation strategy on high-priority tax enforcement issues. These cases involved cross-border transactions, Section 482 disputes, Section 199 deductions, research credits, foreign tax credits, corporate reorganizations and acquisitions, and IP valuations, with claimed tax benefits ranging from $10 million to more than $1 billion.
- Won refund action as lead trial counsel on behalf of a leading magazine publisher in IRS dispute concerning the domestic production activities deduction under Section 199. Meredith Corp. v. United States (S.D. Iowa).
- Lead trial and appellate counsel in a Tax Court case involving an IRS challenge to several million dollars of tax credits for the production of landfill gas as a nonconventional fuel under Section 45K. Green Gas Delaware Statutory Trust, et al. v. Comm'r (U.S. Tax Ct. and D.C. Cir.).
- Lead trial and appellate counsel in refund action on behalf of energy company in IRS dispute concerning the income tax effects of alcohol and biodiesel mixture credits. Delek USA Holdings, Inc. v. United States (M.D. Tenn. and 6th Cir.)
- Represented multinational financial services corporation in IRS transfer pricing examination involving financial derivatives.
- Won 100 percent IRS concession for pharmaceutical company in IRS Appeals regarding whether rebates from U.S. drug manufacturers constitute income effectively connected with the U.S. for tax purposes.
- Won 100 percent IRS concession for energy company in IRS Appeals regarding refund claims for alternative fuel excise tax credits.
- Represented corporate and high net worth taxpayers in IRS audits involving transfer pricing, international tax, the research tax credit, the Section 199 deduction, alternative fuel tax credits and economic substance issues.
- Represented taxpayers in state tax controversies involving partnership, captive insurance, and unitary taxation issues.
- Senior Litigation Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division, 2006 - 2013
- Legal 500: Recommended Lawyer, Tax: U.S. Taxes, Contentious, 2016, 2018, 2020 - 2023
- International Tax Review: Tax Controversy, 2023 - 2024
- The Best Lawyers in America®: Tax Law, 2024
- DOJ Tax Division: Outstanding Attorney, 2008 - 2010
- DOJ: John Marshall Award, the highest award for trial of litigation given by the DOJ, 2009
- IRS: Mitchell Rogovin Award for providing outstanding support to the Office of Chief Counsel by the IRS, 2009
- Co-Chair, Legislative and Administrative Developments Subcommittee, Civil and Criminal Penalties Committee, Tax Section, American Bar Association
- Chair, Tax Policy Committee, Section of Taxation, American Bar Association
- Fellow, American College of Tax Counsel
- District of Columbia
- United States Supreme Court
- United States Tax Court
- United States Court of Federal Claims
- United States District Court for the Central District of California
- United States District Court for the Eastern District of California
- United States District Court for the Northern District of California
- United States District Court for the Southern District of California
- United States District Court for the District of Columbia
- United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
- Law Clerk, The Honorable M. Blane Michael, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit